Pete Buttigieg faces call to resign after East Palestine disaster: ‘Serious and persistent problems’
Senator Marco Rubio is demanding the resignation of Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg over his handling of the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment.
A Norfolk Southern train with 50 rail cars, 10 of which were carrying vinyl chloride, derailed in East Palestine on Feb. 3. The derailment caused hazardous chemicals to spill onto the ground and sent a plume of smoke into the air.
Officials conducted a controlled release of chemicals to avoid the risk of an explosion. Residents were evacuated before officials conducted the release, but have since been allowed back.
While Buttigieg hasn’t been to East Palestine, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation told Fox News Digital that “[Federal Railroad Adminisrtration] and [Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration] staff were on the ground within hours of the derailment and the EPA Regional Administrator and EPA Administrator are visiting. [National Transportation Safety Board] is the lead investigator and DOT is in a supporting role.”
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Rubio said in a letter sent to Biden on Wednesday that “Secretary Buttigieg downplayed and ignored crisis after crisis” and prioritized “topics of little relevance to our nation’s transportation system.”
“At no time has that been more apparent than the past two weeks,” Buttigieg said. “Secretary Buttigieg refused to acknowledge the disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, until his intentional ignorance was no longer tenable. Even after acknowledging the tragedy, he continues to deflect any accountability for the safety of our nation’s rail system. The circumstances leading up to the derailment point to a clear lack of oversight and demand engagement by our nation’s top transportation official.”
Rubio says this is “part of a two-year long pattern.”
“During historic maritime and surface transportation disruptions in 2021, Secretary Buttigieg was completely absent. Amidst an impending possible rail strike last year, Secretary Buttigieg left the country to vacation in Portuguese wine country. Near misses in commercial aviation, as well as recent system failures, including the one that shutdown air travel in Florida in January, indicate that serious and persistent problems across the DOT are not being sufficiently remedied,” Rubio said.
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The Florida senator added that he does not “have confidence that Secretary Buttigieg is capable of keeping the American people safe.”
Buttegieg appeared to put some of the blame for the train derailment on the Trump administration as well as Congress.
Buttigieg said on Tuesday that his agency has been “constrained” by the Trump administration, stating that the Department of Transportation in 2018 withdrew a proposed rule that would require trains carrying some dangerous chemicals to use electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes.
The Department of Transportation said at the time that the technology’s benefits weren’t conclusive.
“We’re constrained by law on some areas of rail regulation (like the braking rule withdrawn by the Trump administration in 2018 because of a law passed by Congress in 2015), but we are using the powers we do have to keep people safe,” Buttigieg tweeted.
Fox News Digital reached out to the Department of Transportation for comment.
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